Thursday, January 31, 2008

4' 33"

Video Find of the Day

My favorite Avant Garde composition. What could be better than Avant Garde music that you can't hear? Here John Cage's composition has been brilliantly transcribed for full orchestra, by not changing one notation.

John Cage "4'33"

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Harry Partch

Video Finds of the Day

One of my heroes, Harry Partch (1901 – 1974) was an under-appreciated American original. He composed his own music on his own instruments using nonstandard scales, including a 43-tone scale of his own invention. He was homeless for ten years during the depression and wrote about it. He drew upon a love of Asian, Hispanic, and Native American music. He worked in collaboration with other artists to produce stage performances. He marketed his own albums the hard way, without the benefit of the internet, just vinyl and snail mail.

I discovered his music about 15 years ago on a cassette tape some fan had recorded that found its way into the Seattle Public Library. I'm thrilled to find him on YouTube.

In the first two videos he demonstrates his instruments.

Harry Partch - Music Studio - Part 1 of 2

Harry Partch - Music Studio - Part 2 of 2

The next is the 4th of 8 that present a 1968 stage performance to Delusions of the Fury, one of his best known works. I picked the 4th because the 1st is more introduction. All 8 can be found among the posts of blaxipad.

Finally, Partch doing a great rant, concerning his atheist Father and rose petal jam.

Harry Partch [Railing against incompetent reporters.]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Deliver Thyself

Video Finds of the Day

Last night Seattle government agencies heard public comments on a new draft rule guiding clearings of homeless encampments on city properties. About 55, 56, or so people spoke, including myself. All but one or two were opposed to the policy. All but one or two of those were disgusted by it. All but one or two of those were furious about it. I expressed, anger, disgust, and incredulity.

Given that the actual hearing was that much of a one-sided affair, it was interesting to read the comments to the online Post-Intelligencer article about the meeting, which were written by people far less intimately involved with the issue than the people who troubled to go there.

Most interesting of those was this intriguing missive from someone called Libertarianguy:

"I would find a form of self deliverence before I allowed myself to end up living as these people do and I encourage them to do the same. I am not religious and have no scruples in this regard. I do not think the unfit should be allowed to live in my local park and befoul the environment by constantly tossing beer cans for me to have to pick up. I pay for these parks with my taxes and have a right to see them used for the purposes they were set up for. Let them move to other cities. As a city we have a right to say we don't want them here. I have long said that we are too hung up on suicide in our society and feel we should encourage more people in dead end situations to seek self deliverace and provide painless,pleasant places to seek relief."

I was struck by the fact that, even though Libertarianguy says he is not religious, he uses a term "deliverance" which implies that he adopts the same world-view as a prosecutor at a trial of the Spanish Inquisition.

That led me to reflect that, when one is discussing homeless encampments, the last thing one expects is the Spanish Inquisition.

Monty Python Spanish Inquisition Part 1

History of the World Part One - The Spanish Inquisition

Candide Recital - Auto Da Fe

"What a day, what a day,
For an auto-da-fe!
What a sunny summer sky!"


Taipei, Taiwan, was immediately red to me. That was the sense I had of it. Red, red, red, with smatterings of yellow, and only wisps of blue and green, except for the trees.

I loved Taipei from the first. The pier we docked at was a working pier next to warehouses full of cargo waiting to ship out or be trucked off. It was crowded with workers. There was no effort to put on a pretty face for new arrivals.

My Father met us at the gangplank. We had to wait for Koko and his crate to be lowered to the dock. There was some passport checking at a booth out in front of the warehouse. Then we were chauffeured off by Army staff car to our new home.

We passed through downtown Taipei along the way, and, as I said, that was red. Almost every store was decked out in Chinese red, with red banners, and red or yellow awnings, covered with large chinese writing.

Remember, this was the Fifties. Back in the US, beige was the king of colors. Mute was master. People who wore bright colors were shunned and ostracized, if not committed. People who painted their houses in bright colors were sued or evicted by their neighborhood associations. So the contrast to home was enormous. But there was also the fact that red was especially meaningful to me. It was the color of the i'iwi and the sacred color that gave rise to all colors. I felt like I was at the beginning of the rainbow.

The house we arrived at was in a middle class neighborhood at the outskirts of the city. One of the main highways out of the city passed a block away, leading to a hillside cemetery a mile or two beyond. You left the highway onto a side road that was paved for only fifty yards and then swung left parallel to the highway as a dirt road with walled middle-class chinese-style houses on either side for several blocks. After the road turned, our house was the first you encountered on the right side. The house directly across the street from us was, it turned out, the home of a Republic of China (ROC) general.

[Above: I've repeatedly tried and failed to find our house on satellite images. So here it is from memory. The houses were more rectangular than depicted. The stream was probably wider. The railroad is totally out of scale. Our house, in reality, was maybe 25 feet in front by 35 or 40 feet. The dirt road was narrower than shown. I was just trying to show where left and right was.]

If you went the other direction, swerving right when the road swerved left, you had to get out and walk. Rather than roads there were walkways through a warren of shops and shanties. We lived across the street from a poor people's bamboo village.

If you didn't swerve right or left but continued straight past the side of our house you crossed a stream, about 8 yards wide, which fed the main river that emptied into the sea and was also our sewer, and the place that our poorer neighbor-women did their laundry. There was then a little bridge you could drive over the stream. A few yards further and you were crossing a railroad track.

So much in one place! Life, death, commerce and cemeteries, poverty and wealth, dirt roads, steam engines, concrete walled homes alongside bamboo shacks. How can you not love a place that has all that?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cantonese Opera

Video Find of the Day

In Taiwan we eventually got a TV so that we could watch the one state channel the two or three hours per day it broadcasted. Much of it was Chinese Opera, and I wasn't allowed to turn the sound up owing to the high-pitched voices. So I got up close to the TV and put my ear to the speaker when I wanted to hear it.

For something like this I would have been allowed to turn the sound up.

六國大封相 - 推車, 坐車

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Buddy Holly

Video Find of the Day

Here's something else that was going on during the last months of 1957. I had no idea at the time. To me, crickets were always insects that had glowing butts.

One hit in August, the other in December.

Buddy Holly - That'll Be the Day

BUDDY HOLLY & the Crickets --- Peggy Sue

One Loss Too Many

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened in November 1957, when I was 8. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

With my initiation into the Royal Domain of the Golden Dragon out the way I was free, for a couple of days, to hunt and be hunted by huntress Diana. My memory of those days was of endless exploration of the USNS ED Patrick, most of which was spent in off-limits areas.

A perk of being 8: If an adult steps over an off-limits sign and gets caught, the MPs are called in, and they draw weapons and shout orders. If a young and not too ugly kid does it, everyone smiles so long as there's no immediate danger of the kid getting hurt. This principle applies even more to 8-year old lovers.

One of the most memorable kissing & hugging sessions of my life was thus conducted on a catwalk within the engine room of the ship. The men monitoring the engine knew we were there and just smiled. None of them bothered us. No one told us to leave.

The next distraction from all that was Tokyo. We arrived at a Tokyo pier in the morning and those that wanted could spend the day exploring the city. So Diana and I got separated as her Father and my Mother took us apart and went sight-seeing in two different groups.

Tokyo was just a hint of what would was to come in Taiwan. It was strange, but not that strange. It's always a xenomanic moment to find oneself in a city surrounded by signs in a foreign language. It's even better if it's in a system of writing you don't know. But beyond that Tokyo wasn't too much different from other bustling over-crowded cities I'd seen.

We had another two days together after the Tokyo stop was over and we continued south toward Taiwan. At no time did we talk about our destinations. I assumed that she was going to Taiwan and probably Taipei, and we could see each other there. She probably assumed that I was going to Okinawa.

It wasn't until we docked in Okinawa that we found out that we'd probably never see each other again.

I had expected that we could only be together for the time my Mother and I were to be in Taiwan, at most a year, but to have that year suddenly turn into 13 days time-served with one hour remaining felt like being hit by a truck.

I panicked. I begged Diana's Dad to take me with him. He might have thought I was joking.

Diana and I hugged goodbye and I watched her walk off the ship, knowing that it was going to be a long time before I could let myself become attached to any one person again.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Internet, As It Is

Video Find of the Day

This is so true.

Internet Party: When Google's parents leave town...


[Date & Place: Last week in November, 1957, up to and over the International Dateline.]

[Above: Click on the image for a larger version.]

Wouldn't you know it? It turns out you can't cross the International Dateline without being hazed.

OK, I'm exaggerating. The Merchant Marines who were driving our boat apparently have a tradition that if you have never before crossed the 180th meridian you have to wear your clothes inside-out, underwear on the outside, and socks outside of your shoes. And, if you're a guy, you have to wear an earring. And you have to pledge allegiance to Davey Jones and the other Denizens of the Deep. And you have to do whatever you're told to do by those better than you who have previously successfully crossed the International Dateline.

For an overly self-conscious 8-year-old, this set up had all the potential of Major Trauma.

But it worked out for me. A couple of bad things happened. At the movie-o-the-day I let slip the earring my Mother let me wear. I couldn't find it. I thought I'd be dead. It turned out she let me wear it because it was a piece of crap. Later, I encountered a bunch of crewman and passengers in a line, heaving on a chain to choruses of the Volga Boat Song.

It wasn't really a chain, though, it was an unrolled roll of toilet paper. The crew members ordered me to join the line and help heave ho on the toilet paper. I did what I was told, and heaved as if the toilet paper were a real chain, breaking it. I was horrified. I had ruined it. I backed away in fear and guilt and shame. Everyone laughed. I was sure I had failed.

Then the crewmen holding the torn ends brought them together and loosely tied them, and the heaving resumed.

Suddenly reality was restored. We'd been dancing.

Sign of the Times

One of our vendors brought this in to the Real Change office this morning like it was a picture of his new baby. He showed it off proudly to everyone who would look. "Have you seen my eviction notice?"

"Shelter #6" refers to a covered picnic shelter at Woodland Park, near the zoo, not a homeless shelter. His property isn't actually in the shelter, it's hidden nearby. The notice says he has to move it or lose it by tomorrow afternoon.

As he put it, he's been evicted from the street to the street.

Note that contrary to the warm fuzzy goodness of the words "Customer Service Bureau" neither the notice nor anyone on the other end of that line promises or can promise any place for the evictee to go. (Really, we're customers now? We're not citizens anymore? Or is the idea that homeless people aren't citizens?) The homeless shelters in this city are full, as was underlined by the news that the count conducted Thursday night found 15% more homeless than last year.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Speaking of Superman

Video Find of the Day

"And now, another exciting episode in the Adventures of Superman..."

Adventures of Superman Season One Opening Credits

"This nut may prove dangerous!"

Superman - 1941 Cartoon

Educational Experiences

[Date & Place: 4th week of November 1957 (I'm eight), Pacific Ocean, 33-35 degrees north.]

I had the idea that our ship was going to have to stop at Hawaii on the way to Taiwan. Won't they have to stop at a gas station somewhere? Where else could they stop?

Well, it turns out these ships are fitted out to steam over 5000 miles without refueling, and that's just what this one was going to do. We were going to take a great circle arc from San Francisco to Tokyo, and then continue on to Taiwan. The leg of the trip to Tokyo would be non-stop. It's 5,250 miles. That part took us about 11 days if I remember right. That works out to about 17, maybe 17.5 knots steady. We're we speeding? Is that normal? I don't know.

So anyway, our course took us nowhere near Hawaii. On one of the decks there was a giant wall map with pins in it and string and a little ship icon to let the passengers know where we were and where we we going to be and had been. Very educational. We skirted the Aleutians instead.

I don't remember how many decks were accessible to passengers. I think there were 4. There was a lower deck that only had cabins. Above that there was a deck that had a large community room with sofas and coffee tables to gather around. I met all the kids in that room. For a while Diana and I both hung out there and played card games and traded military dependent stories with the others. That deck also had a small theater, where movies were shown every day. There was a deck that had the galley and mess. There was an open upper deck where you could sun yourself and get almost a 360 degree view of the ocean.

Diana and I didn't limit ourselves to the accessible decks, though. When we came to signs attached to chains stretched in our path that said, "Off Limits to Unauthorized Personnel" Diana pointed out that "Unauthorized Personnel" meant civilians. We weren't civilians, we were dependents. I wasn't sure that was accurate, but when she climbed under the chains and kept going I had to follow, to stick by my girl.

The other kids caught on quickly and we endured a lot of teasing. Very educational. Especially Diana's reaction. "They're jealous."

But the most valuable education came when Diana and I got into an argument over whether Superman was real. I think the actual question was "Could Superman fly?"

[Right: In 1957, what Superman looked like.]

I said, no one can fly. She said, Superman can. I said that's silly. She said you're silly.

Somehow, maybe it was the power of infatuation and the desire to suck from her mouth, I suddenly got it.

Oh!: If we're going to talk about Superman, we need to accept the premises that attach. To not do so is to crush imagination, a crime against humanity. Yada, yada.

At the time I didn't really believe that. I just believed that if I pretended to believe it I might get closer to kissing Diana. But the next day and the next, the idea worked on me, and by the time we did kiss, I believed it with all my heart, and still do.

A life without imagination is a life without soul, not worth preserving.

World Class Runs

[Below: There will be no pictures for this post. You are welcome.]

[Date & Place: The 3rd or 4th week of November 1957, a few hundred miles west of North America.]

After a day of puking and running around with Diana, I was starting to feel well again. That night I developed the worst diarrhea of my life. Again, the deity hated me. It lasted three days. I was afraid to leave the cabin.

By the third day it was getting clear it wasn't getting better, I was getting dehydrated, and I needed medical care. My Mother took me to the ship's doctor.

She did what she would always do when I saw a doctor: hang in the office, ignoring hints from the doctor that he and I could continue without her. He told her he would have to do a rectal exam, and she just sat there. He finally told her she had to wait outside. She started to freak out. She said, "I have to be here! I don't know what you're going to do! This is my baby!"

He said, "You don't have to worry; the nurse will be with me the whole time."

She still wouldn't leave, so he took her arm and pushed her out the door and slammed it.

It was easy for me to figure out what was really happening. Mom thought that during the rectal exam I might say something like, "That's just like Mommy does it." She wasn't trying to protect me, she was looking out for herself. She relied on being there to be able to ad lib a dismissal of anything I said that might incriminate her.

The doctor found a cyst that was causing the diarrhea. I had to use some medicated suppositories for the next few days. They worked great and I was out and about within 24 hours.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dianas All Around

Video Find of the Day

Coincidentally, this song had been out about 3 months when I met my Diana (see previous post). I barely noticed at the time, but Diana mentioned that she loved it, and later it always reminded me of her.

Paul Anka - Diana (1957)

USNS ED Patrick

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened in November 1957, when I was 8. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

In the morning, my Mother and I (and Koko, the dog -- I keep forgetting to mention him!) were taken to the Port of San Francisco. We boarded the troop transport ship USNS E.D. Patrick. This was jokingly referred to as a "boat" by crew, but it looked like a giant cruise-liner to inexperienced me.

The ship was a combination passenger and cargo ship that operated between the West Coast of America and Asia from about 1950 to the late 60s. Koko was our cargo. He had to go into a traveling box and reside in it in a sheltered cargo area on an aft deck. We would have to walk him in the cargo area several times a day during the trip.

Look at me! I just said "aft"! This was the trip where I learned to say "I'm going up the ladder" instead of "I'm going upstairs". I learned to say "decks" not "floors".

After the ship set out into San Francisco Bay we all had to line up on one of the lower decks and receive instructions on putting on life jackets. We endured a test of the ships emergency sirens while we approached the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we could take the jackets off, they were collected and with the horn blaring we passed under the bridge. Trés Jungian. The auspicious beginning!

About an hour out to sea, when land was no longer visible, I was puking. I puked on deck. A sailor led me to the rail and invited me to puke into the ocean in the future. I immediately did so. He said, "stay there, I'll get you something for that." While he was gone I puked a couple more times into the Pacific. He came back with a big bag of saltine crackers and a glass of lemonade. I spent several hours sitting near the rail, eating saltines and sipping lemonade, and periodically puking.

I was still puking about once every half hour or so when a girl came up alongside me and asked me my name. She was about my age, sandy blond, and cute. I told her "Wesley" and she asked what it meant. I said I didn't think it meant anything, it was just the name of some guy who lived a long time ago and is dead now. She said, "Well, my name is Diana. Diana is the goddess of the hunt."

I said, "What sort of hunt?" She said, "All kinds. Deer, maybe. Or people." She smiled. I realized at that moment that my newest girlfriend had found me. Then I puked again, and she said, "You'll get over that soon, don't worry."

Who, me, worry?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Jimmie Rodgers

Video Find of the Day

#3 in 1957, 21 weeks in the top 100.

Jimmie Rodgers - Kisses Sweeter than Wine

Always Learning

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened in November 1957, when I was 8. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

In November '57 my Mother and I rode in a sleeper car from Seattle to San Francisco. We were met at the train station by a family friend, a woman who had a daughter my age. We stayed with them a day and night.

Here we were, on our way to Nationalist China, and our hosts had to take us to San Francisco's Chinatown. I've always thought that was a little funny. But I loved that excursion. What got my attention was a visit to a small shop, and glimpsing a back room with a small Buddhist shrine. I asked what it was, horrifying my Mother. She felt the question would be seen as rude. But the shopkeeper seemed glad I asked, told me it was a shrine to Buddha, and gave me a thirty second explanation of Buddhism that went right past me. The only thing I took away from it was her graciousness. It made a lasting impression.

That night was a little funny, too. We all turned in pretty early, even our hosts. I had to sleep on the floor of the living room. I don't know where my Mother and the others were sleeping, but after an hour or so the daughter walked out into the living room wearing only underpants, stepped over me, walked into the kitchen, got a glass of water, and started back to where she came from.

I had never seen a girl my own age wearing nothing but underpants. I actually said, "Don't you feel a little naked walking around me like that?"

She said, "False modesty is vanity."

I had to ask, "What's 'modesty'?" For some reason I'd never learned the word before. She laughed, and explained it slowly to me. Again, I don't recall the answer. My mind was elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Man macht das Hokey-Kokey

Video Find of the Day

Last week when I was getting my kicks going through the 20 or 30 routines of bill Bailey represented by YouTube videos I missed this one. I think this is the best one of them all.

Wikipedia has a fascinating article on the Hokey Pokey / Hokey Cokey. It explains why Bailey, a Brit, would put the K sound in it. It also has the words of Bailey's German version, which he claimed was a "lesser-known, lesser-performed track" by Kraftwerk:

Man steckt die linke Arm ein, die linke Arm aus. Ein, aus, ein, aus. Man springt es alles um. Man macht das Hokey-Kokey und man dreht sich herum. Das ist die ganze Sache. Ja, das Hokey-Kokey. Ja, das Hokey-Kokey. Ja, das Hokey-Kokey. Knien gebogen, Armen gestreckt. Ra. Ra. Ra.

Man steckt die linke Bein ein, die linke Bein aus. Ein, aus, ein, aus. Man springt es alles um. Man macht das Hokey-Kokey und man dreht sich herum. Das ist die ganze Sache. Ja, das Hokey-Kokey. Ja, das Hokey-Kokey. Ja, das Hokey-Kokey. Knien gebogen, Armen gestreckt. Ra. Ra. Ra.

A sample of the target of the spoof:

kraftwerk- autobahn

Monday, January 21, 2008

This Little Light Of Mine

Video Find of the Day

Posted by Mandy39. Filmed in 1963.

King Louis Narcisse - This Little Light Of Mine

Adventures in Fermentation

Microbe Wrangler Wes

I started out making bread to save money on the sour dough I love. Then I branched out into rice-wine making after finding out that it had short enough turnaround times to be practical for someone living in a small cramped apartment. Then I resumed a practice of home yogurt making I'd dropped 25 years ago in the midst of family problems. Since that time I'd developed a taste for buttermilk. Hey, making buttermilk is as easy as making yogurt. So I'm making buttermilk now, too.

[Addendum: Forgot to mention the rice vinegar. With raisins and tarragon. It's easier than rice wine. You just let the fermentation go. I haven't mastered the rice wine yet but my vinegar is fine. I'm using it in cooking and preserving chopped garlic and such.]

Anitra started clamoring for clabbering. She wanted cheese. Cheap endless homemade cheese. She even looked up mozzarella recipes behind my back and sprang them on me when I wasn't expecting them. "Why don't you make mozzarella, Wes? Read this; it says it's easy."

So I looked for cheese recipes of my own. And today I made my first cheese, an easy-peasy rennet-free cream cheese called labneh or laban from Mediterranean countries that almost makes itself.

The recipe says start with yogurt, add salt, pour into a bowl lined with cheese-cloth, gather the cheese cloth around it to make a bag, and suspend it over a bowl 24 hours. [In a refrigerator so you don't grow bad germs.] It says the whey will drip out leaving the cheese, you press it in your hands, eat.

Well, with the homemade runny yogurt I make from store bought milk that didn't work. The yogurt ran out the cheese cloth with the whey. So I put cheese cloth in a bowl and a paper bag in over the cheese cloth. I filled the bag with the yogurt using the cheese cloth to hold the bag and giving the wet paper support so it wouldn't give way under the weight of the yogurt. I suspended that 24 hours.

It worked! I love this!

Now I'm going to go look for rennet. Large curd cottage cheese and mozzarella loom in my future. Mmmm, pizza from scratch. My bread and cheese, Anitra's garden veggies.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Zawinul Et Al

Video Find of the Day

Smooth performance from shirtless guys and Joe Zawinul and others in Stadthalle Offenbach.

Weather Report - Birdland

Playground-Citizen Wesley

Soon after we moved in to the garage in Seattle my Father came back from a day at Fort Lewis to tell us his orders. He would be sent overseas, to Taiwan, AKA Formosa, Nationalist China, The Republic of China. He would administer some Army program there. He wouldn't say what the program would involve, except to say he didn't expect war to break out at any time, and that probably he would only be gone for 6 to 8 months.

That seemed like a long time to me and the thought of not seeing him for so long stirred anxiety in me without my knowing why. It wasn't until I was in my 40s that I realized that as ineffective as my Father had been at protecting me from my Mother, I persisted in feeling that he was a protector, simply because he was my Father. It was an irrational hope that, once believed, rationally might be lost.

The anxiety amplified my native caution. I became fearful of anything uncertain. I was already religiously skeptical. Now I began to question everything. I questioned gravity, 2 + 2 = 4, the dark of night, and every single word my teacher said.

A milepost in technology occurred. Sputnik was launched into orbit on Oct 4, 1957. We watched what we all were told at the time was the flashing satellite orbiting over Seattle that evening. Recently I read that it was actually the final booster stage. The papers carrying the news dredged up a 1920 New York Times editorial that scoffed at Robert Goddard's dream of sending rockets into space, saying Goddard ""does not know of the relation of action to reaction, and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react." The newspapers had fun with this new and most dramatic proof that the editors of the New York Times had been full of it. The lesson I took from it was, everything has to be tested and proved. Nothing can be taken for granted.

My Father thought my Mother and I would remain in Seattle the whole time he was in Taiwan. But a week or two before he left for the Far East in mid-October he learned that the Army would send us a month later on a slow boat to [Nationalist] China.

I was taken to Fort Lewis and given half a dozen vaccinations for diseases I never heard of.

I don't recall any more than the low level sexual abuse that month, just fondling every few days. Maybe my Mother was too preoccupied with thoughts of the overseas adventure ahead.

While we waited for our turn to cross the ocean, Halloween happened, and I had a Seattle-style trauma.

Seattle was much less uptight in 1957 than it is today, fifty years later. But there were signs of things to come. One of the signs was a city-wide ban on children's masks at Halloween. It had been decided that masks with eye-holes obstructed vision too much. Children could be hit with cars.

OK, so I would not wear my cool Zorro costume on the sidewalks. I would only wear it on the school grounds, WHERE THERE ARE NO CARS, during the MANDATORY (for the sake of our "HEALTHY SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT") school Halloween march.

Well, guess what the teachers said? The LAW is the LAW. No masks. But it's a Zorro costume, there has to be a mask. "No problem, the march isn't for a couple of hours, WE'LL MAKE YOU A COMPLETELY NEW COSTUME THAT WILL BE LEGAL AND YOU'LL LOVE IT."

They made me a slapped-together paper and cloth clown costume. They wouldn't stop at that, they made me submit to grease-paint. "You'll see, it will be great!"

It was horrible. I was transformed against my will into a stupid clown. The other kids made cruel jokes about it throughout. At home it took two hours to wash the grease-paint off. Wherever it had been my skin was red and sore for days. Turned out I was allergic to grease-paint. All to avoid getting hit by non-existent cars. Thank you uptight, we-know-best-what's-good-for-you-Seattle!

And then, a couple of weeks later, my Mother and I were riding a train to San Francisco where we would catch a Merchant Marine ship to the Orient.

Before we left I got a report card with no grades. It was called a "progress report". I was in a fucking grade-free experimental "progressive" program, it so happened. Since I'd only attended 9 weeks of school the only content of the report was the following paragraph:

"Wesley is a conscientious student, does his best at all times. He is a shy child, but is much more willing to participate in games, etc., than he was the first of the year. He reads with the high group, with good understanding of subject matter. His written work is neatly done. Wesley is a fine citizen on the playground, well liked by his classmates. We will all miss him."

Isn't it wonderful that just then, in those two months of 3rd grade I happened to start getting over my shyness?

Every damn school I went to I was "shy" when I got there, and I "started to get over it" after two or three months of brilliant teaching designed to foster good healthy extroversion.

Total crock.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sly & the Family Stone

Video Find of the Day

I've said it before, I'll say it again, I didn't really take rock seriously until it turned funky. In particular James Brown and then, Sly & the Family Stone, got me going.

But who's the Sly-est of them all? Ed McMahon?

Sly & The Family Stone - Dance To The Music - Music Lover

The next has a string of clips from rehearsals, plus excerpts from live performances. The video kind of loses steam toward the end, but the rehearsal scenes are worth it.

Sly & the Family Stone - Live! 70's rehearsals Rare!

Then there's the Woodstock "Higher", which is in a class in itself.

Sly & The Family Stone - I Want To Take You Higher

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fog, Fear & Raspberry Jam

Video Find of the Day

Sometimes it pays to look at the featured videos on YouTube. This is awesome.

hedgehog in the fog

Michael Howell, Part VII

The End

Michael lost the gallery by gallery by the end of 1994, but refused to admit it and adjust to it. As a result he was driven from the gallery.

If there was any single mistake he made that got him driven out it had to be the habit he had of letting himself in to the gallery after hours and claiming more wall space for himself. At the start of gallery self-governance Michael had one-third of the wall space. For the December '94 reopening there was a more equitable reapportionment of space, although Michael's was still larger than others. But after that event, Michael came in nights and worked at restoring his dominance of the display space. He took down art he didn't like, moved other art in its place and increased his own display.

Another factor in Michael's ouster was the arrival of Boyd McLaughlin. Boyd was a talented artist who specialized in detailed representational drawings dawn with ballpoint etched in wood. His art sold. He was also a recovering drug addict who needed to throw himself into his work to fight his addiction. So he had a vested interest in seeing the gallery open for as many hours as possible. By the summer of 1995 the gallery was open more than half the week and Boyd was clamoring for 7-day coverage, telling Barbara Brownstein he would do it himself.

The rest of us, aside from Michael, were happy to let Boyd do it. Not only would it mean more hours that artists could use the space and sell, but we knew that Boyd was a fair monitor.

Monitoring was a constant problem for the gallery. The monitor greets visitors and gives them a tour of the space, answering any questions the visitors have and arranging sales for artists who don't happen to be present. When Michael performed the function everyone could see that he tried to keep the visitor's attention moving from display to display until they landed on his art. He deliberately put his art at the back of the room so the visitors would get to it last. That way there would be no place next to go after they got there, and Michael could keep them at his display for an indefinite period of time. If anyone complained that he wasn't showing the other artist's work equally he'd say he'd already done that. The tour was over, he was just carrying on a conversation now. The deceit was transparent to the artists but the cover just barely plausible enough that the staff felt they could do nothing.

With Boyd there were no dirty tricks like that. He showed all the art equally. If the visitors were still there asking questions when the tour was technically over he wouldn't hog their attention, but invite other artists to share in the conversation.

Real Change featured Boyd McLaughlin in the August 1995 issue, the same issue that my column started. Soon after, Boyd started opening the gallery 7 days a week.

Barbara Brownstein and Noel House staff began to put pressure on Boyd to cut back. They were afraid he was overworking himself. Boyd cheerfully dismissed their concerns, saying, "I know what's best for me."

What happened next was one of the best examples I can give of what is wrong with social workers' training. Instead of acknowledging that Boyd really MIGHT know better than they about his personal life and needs, they made the decision for him to cut his hours back. He subsequently died, of a drug overdose, on one of the days he otherwise would have been working the gallery.

Apparently the schools that turn out social workers need to require Humility 101.

Boyd's death brought the other artists together as a community and his work while alive told us we didn't need Michael Howell.

The final push came after Michael was called to a meeting downstairs with Barbara, Noel House staff, and representatives of the cooperative that had formed over Michael's objections. I was picked as one of the representatives. The main issue was Michael's meddling with the displays after hours. He was asked to stop his "obstructionism" and join with the other artists as an equal member of the coop. He sulked through most of the meeting, then told us all it was his gallery and we had no right to take it away from him. I pointed out that he had told us all along that it would be a coop, now it is one, so what was the problem? He said, "So you're on their side." He must have imagined himself the Julius Caesar of the gallery.

It took us months to get Michael Howell's art out of the gallery. After six months, we came very close to just throwing it in the trash, on the theory that six months was more than reasonable time to expect an evictee to clear out.

About half a year later, on March 9, 1997, Michael died of heart failure. Unlike Boyd's death, it wasn't clear whether you could blame Michael's on his eviction from the gallery. Too much time had passed. But maybe we did kill him. I don't know.

But I do know I'm far from a Brutus. I didn't stab him. He walked into it.


[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened in the Fall of 1957, after my 8th birthday. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

My new school was Van Asselt Elementary at Beacon and Myrtle. It's almost virtually unchanged from 1957. What's more, I was assigned to a class that met in the old building, which was the school building my Father attended when he was 8. What's still more than that, my teacher was one of his former elementary school teachers.

[Above: Van Asselt today, showing the 3-story old building that was the school when my Father attended. The long low building in front and to the right of that is a "modern" 1-story addition that was present in 1957. The other smaller structures are portables. We had those in '57 too. The only significant changes from the 50s are the trees in the foreground, part of the beautification of Beacon Avenue. Interesting that from the 20s to the 50s, all the change was to expand the school, while from the 50s to the next millennium, all the change was to pretty up the road passing it by.]

Army Brats regularly have the problem of having to reprove themselves over and over again at each new school and in each new neighborhood. But you usually don't have to prove yourself to people who have expectations based on who your parents are. This was a weird situation.

This is how I wrote about it a few years ago for a writing exercise. (I've brought up this incident before in these memoirs in A Tale of Two Parents I.)


My father was stationed in Korea at the start of hostilities. He was part of an Army Intelligence team assigned to break the Chinese code. He was shot at, once. The sniper missed his heart but nailed his soul. When my father returned on my first birthday he took it out on me. I'd be dead today, except for the intercession of the memory of a certain red bird, which prompted a response from me that saved my life.

Speaking of red birds, I'm reminded of something that happened in the third grade.

The first day of class our teacher, Mrs. Haugen, took note of my name and asked if I was any relation to John Wesley Browning, who had been one of her students more than thirty years earlier. I said yes he's my father and then she went on and on and on in class about what a great student he had been and how if I was even half as bright as him I might be the best student in the class.

This was not complete hyperbole since my father got nothing but A's in all his classes in all his years of school from 1st grade through 12th; I know because I've seen the plaque the Seattle School District gave him in commemoration of the achievement. But my own school records showed C's and D's from the first two grades so there was no chance that I was going to get a plaque like that. And anyway I had already decided that I didn't want to be just like my father. There were things about him I didn't care for and if he got that way by being a perfect student then maybe being a perfect student wasn't worth it. So all in all I didn't appreciate the comparison, and in hindsight I think it might have shown.

A few days later Mrs. Haugen had given us all a reading test and based on the scores she assigned us new seats. She put the high scorers in the file furthest right, the next highest in the next file over, and so on. Then she told us that according to which file we were seated in we were Bluebirds, Robins, Finches, Sparrows, etc. As I had gotten one of the highest scores I was therefore going to be a Bluebird.

That was too much for me. I said, "I don't WANT to be a Bluebird!"

She laughed and said, "But you ARE a Bluebird. Bluebirds are the best and your score was ..."

"I don't care. I don't want to be a Bluebird, I want to be a Redbird."

"Well, we don't have Redbirds, the closest we have are Robins and you wouldn't want to be a Robin, Robins don't read as well as you do."

"I'd rather be a Robin than a Bluebird, at least they're a little bit red."

All through this the class had been laughing (except for the Robins, of course) and Mrs. Haugen had been grinning like I was playing a cute joke on her, but I meant it. If I was going to be a bird I was going to be a red one and that was that.

Then with mock seriousness she said, "You can be a Robin if you want but that means you'll have to sit with the other Robins and people won't know what a good reader you really are."

So I said OK and got up and picked up my books to move to the Robin's file and now everybody got quiet because it wasn't funny anymore.

Mrs. Haugen told me to sit back down where I was and there was a long silence, as she just stared at me as if she was trying to decide whether or not to call for the men in the white coats. But finally she smiled again and announced, "All-RIGHT class, we have Sparrows over here, and Finches in this file, ..., and over here on my left we have five Bluebirds and one VERY unique, STRONG-HEADED, Redbird."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Best Dynasty Ever

Video Find of the Day

I love T'ang Dynasty music. [Roughly 7th through 9th centuries AD, China.] I plan on looking for more of these. This one features percussion.

I was looking up the T'ang Dynasty on Wikipedia and found out that its capital was Chang'an, present day Xi'an, which was back then the largest city in the world, and I recalled that Xi'an is reputed to be the origin of the variety of glutinous rice wine I have been trying to imitate. Maybe that explains the affinity I feel.

musicians fron tang dynasty xi'an

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Stupid Search Trick

Video Finds of the Day

YouTube was partially down tonight, "that functionality is unavailable at this time," but the search functionality was available so I did a search on porn + music. I know what you're thinking, "Wes probably spends 95% of his time looking for porn." Well, perhaps, but this time the idea was to see if I could find something of a MUSICAL nature that was TAGGED with the word porn, that would be interesting from a non-pornophilic vantage point. It's a trick I use for finding interesting things while stupid. I think this next one fits the bill. There is the word porn, but no actual porn-o-graphy.

Bill Bailey - Medieval Porn

In this one the kernel of humor is cockney music, as opposed to porn, but it is still interesting.

Bill Bailey and Cockney Music

This is the only one that may be pornographic in any sense, as he sings a song in French that according to a translation in the description is about sex. But, who cares, aren't all French songs about sex?

Bill Bailey - Foreign Ambulance Sirens

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Doing the Big Apple

Video Find of the Day

I love it when they do the Frankenstein. By the way this is from twobarbreak, a dance historian who has a lot more of this sort of thing worth seeing.

the big apple

A Kind of Certainty

One thing that my Mother did during the trip across country in 1957 that went a long way toward making up for all the abuse -- in my mind at the time -- was to help me through arithmetic workbooks and drills. That probably sounds like more abuse to most people but to me math was a place. It was as interesting a place as Wyoming or Montana. More, actually. I was still at the point where I wasn't clear on how to set my own problems and goals. So my Mother's help was welcome.

We were delayed by car troubles. We spent a week at a motel in an Idaho town waiting for an auto part to be shipped to the shop the car was in. Two results: We arrived in Seattle later than planned, close to the start of school. From then on Dad only bought new cars.

We came directly to my Grandparent's brick house on Beacon Hill. Almost at the crest of the hill, it was two houses down from the old wooden house that my Father grew up in. The brick house was built around '42, after my Father had left home. A lot of the work was done by my Grandfather, especially the wiring and plumbing. The house had a basement that was used only for storage and washing and drying clothes. It had a work table with cabinets above. But the table was covered with rusting cans and jars of rank chemicals like pesticides and turpentine and slug bait. It was like our own toxic waste-dump. It probably shortened my life by a decade. Whenever I die, add ten years. That will be how long I would have lived.

Aside from the basement there was just one floor upstairs. A large bedroom and a small one, a bathroom, living room, kitchen and very tight dining alcove.

My Grandfather was gone. Grandmother Gertrude was too set in her ways to be comfortable with the changes it would take for us to move in with her.

So we moved into the garage instead.

[Below: The house hasn't been torn down yet! It's the smaller brick house on our left. The old garage is gone but there's a new structure sitting exactly where it was. We're looking west toward Beacon Avenue, which had a dirt median then, and was lined with telephone poles. Today the median is landscaped and the avenue is lined with trees. And telephone poles.]

The garage had already been converted into a small one bedroom apartment. It was a two car garage. The two stalls were made into separate rooms, with a door between. The sliding car-doors were permanently shut and sealed.

We used one room as a living room during the day, a kitchen, and my bedroom at night (I slept on a couch.) The other room would be my parents' bedroom. A tiny bathroom had been added to that. It was so small the shower was over the toilet and drenched it. To put it another way, the bathroom was a shower with a toilet and sink in it.

The kitchen stove was a kerosene stove that could also burn wood. It was the only heater also. Since the kerosene was gravity fed from a barrel outside, and it was a pain to replace or refill the barrel, we used wood whenever possible. Fortunately the back yard beyond the garage was thickly wooded with plum, pear, apricot, and apple trees, so we could cut our own wood.

"We" meaning me. I was the one outside all the time chopping the wood into logs and kindling. I didn't mind. To me, it was cool. I loved that on cold nights we had to stoke the fire at 2 in the morning if we wanted to not freeze.

We had a sense of security because of that that I don't have today. I remember a horrible winter storm we had in the early 90s that left my neighborhood in the U District without power for more than 8 hours. All the heat I had during that blackout came from a dozen plumber's candles. There was no way I could safely build a fire. Had the blackout gone on another 3 or 4 hours the candles would have been gone and I would have had to seek public shelter.

At the garage we could have lived through a blackout like that for an entire winter. It was great knowing that.

A lot of people are attracted to living outside of conventional housing because they can no longer bear depending on the grid for daily survival. They can't stand the thought that a fried squirrel and a computer malfunction could leave them without heat for days.

So they look for escape in extreme self-reliance. They live in tents or shanties in places they hope no one will bother them and try to take care of their own needs by primitive but robust means.

The rest of the community doesn't understand. They think these people must all be criminals, why else would they hide in the woods?

They aren't any more criminals than the rest of us. They're just people who need a different kind of certainty than others do.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Enjoy Fragrant Monkey Tail

Video Find of the Day

America population just rounding error to China! Enjoy fragrant monkey tail, America! -- lines like that got this film into SUNDANCE!

Warning: This is from Atom Films, a commercial site that makes money off of ads for movies, games, and Comedy Central, and they'll throw a random ad at you before the start of the actual video. That's why I'm not embedding it even though I could. Click on the title if you're strong enough, flabby American!

Ha Ha Ha America

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Death Metal, Melodic

Video Find of the Day

Now death metal comes in the flavor "melodic." That's what they say about In Flames, a Swedish band. Take this melody --

In Flames Take this life

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bill Hicks

Video Finds of the Day

Thanks to homelessness and too much poverty (more than now) I had no opportunity to know of Bill Hicks while he was alive. I learned of him for the first time from my daughter, of all people. I can't tell you how proud of her I was after I checked him out. Later we agreed that it was more evidence that she was my spawn, in addition to the eyes.

bill hicks drugs and music

Bill Hicks - Play From Your Fucking Heart

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bennie & the Jets

Video Find of the Day

I looked the song up on Wikipedia. The article says it was deemed inappropriate by Clear Channel after September 11, 2001. Amazing.

Here, a video that combines the weird song with Ernie Kovacs -- the match makes no sense, therefore it fits!

Benny & The Jets - Elton John

Michael Howell, Part VI

The first issue of Real Change appeared in August 1994. The second issue came out October 1, 1994, and featured a two page article on the art of Michael Howell. It crammed a full 25 of Michael's drawings in together with a half page article describing Michael Howell's art and Michael Howell -- by Michael Howell. He didn't want anybody else interpreting him.

Meanwhile, the other gallery members were meeting regularly with Barbara Brownstein to prepare for a rededication of the gallery under a new name, StreetLife Art gallery, as a genuine cooperative art studio/gallery. Michael Howell was invited to all the meetings, but refused to attend, because his position was that he was in charge of the gallery, therefore decisions made without him had no force. Our meetings were just an opportunity, he thought, for us to exchange so much hot air. The gallery was what he made it. What we said it was meant nothing. If we wanted to change it, WE had to meet with HIM, not HIM with US.

The Archdiocesan Housing Authority, the Dominican Sisters, and A Territory Resource saw it differently. They were funding a cooperative gallery, not a Michael Howell gallery.

Without input from Michael, the other members voted to change the name, reorganize the gallery, put out a book featuring art and biographies of all the artists, and hold a public reopening. The date was set for December 8. Michael didn't make it.

[Above: The StreetLife opening, as pictured in the next month's Real Change.]

About the same time, though, Michael found a reason to get back on speaking terms with me. He wanted to apply for a bus shelter project. He didn't think he could get one on his own. So his idea was to repeat the success of the gallery idea: make a joint application with 2 other artists. The idea was the 3 of us would represent homelessness better than one could. We would offer 3 different kinds of art combined on the same bus shelter.

For the 3rd artist, Michael wanted our poet friend, Stan Burriss. It was the sort of sly choice I'd come to expect from Michael. He knew Stan would only get a small plaque for a poem or two, leaving the rest of the shelter to Michael and I. He got me to agree to do only the bottom third of the shelter, around the bench, while he did the upper two thirds. My incentive was that my share of the money Metro paid us would not be reduced by more than a third of a dollar. Stan and I would each get $333, Michael would get $334.

Getting a design approved was a nightmare. The man in charge of the shelter art program was Dale Cummings, who always seem to me to be on the verge of pulling his hair out in response to talking to us. I didn't blame him.

Michael wanted to use his wall projector to duplicate twelve of his small paintings on the fronts and backs of the six panels he would have. Stan, who, ever since his homeless days has always written his poems on napkins and paper cups he picks up at cafés and meetings, wanted Metro to create plexiglass cases to house cups and napkins so people could see them as they were written. I wanted to create a semi-abstract linear piece that would illustrate the words of one of the poems that Stan submitted.

Mr. Cummings objected, first of all, to the lack of cohesion these plans had. We had very tense meetings in which he basically said, "You guys get together and integrate your design plans, or we'll cancel this project." He objected to Stan's proposal on grounds of cost and practicality. The cases would be one-of-kind, so if they were damaged the cost of replacement would be too high. Stan was told he'd get the same kind of case that holds bus schedules, for copies of his peoms. Those would be easily replaced and cheap.

The biggest objection came when Michael presented the 12 paintings he wanted to use. Dale Cummings wanted women, minorities, and youth. Michael painted older White males, almost exclusively.

Cummings finally gave up on the cohesion issue, but never gave an inch on the demand for diversity of images. He kept reminding Michael that he understood that Michael has to have his own personal vision as an artist, but Metro is paying for this shelter, so Metro has a right to demand that the content be something that reflects well on it.

Michael became defensive. he felt he was being charged with racism. He made the point that he painted old White men because their wrinkles stood out. That was really what his art was about.

He was a landscape artist in effect, not a portrait artist. But he couldn't say it that way because he had spent years promoting his art as portraiture art. His whole rap was that he was depicting the "real" homeless. So Dale Cummings said, by only showing old White men and saying that you're depicting the real homeless you're implying that only old White men are real homeless. That homeless women and homeless Blacks and homeless youths and homeless Native Americans, for examples, aren't real homeless.

I thought it was great. For the first time someone speaking to Michael Howell about Michael's art was really taking it seriously. He was talking to Michael about what his art really was about.

Michael hated it. But after one long tense meeting after another he finally realized that Cummings wasn't going to budge. Michael caved and we went ahead.

[Below: The shelter was originally placed at 7th & Olive. From a photo accompanying a June '95 article about the shelter project taken by Karla Manus.]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Put Down the Duckie

Video Find of the Day

There are several versions of this up. The "find" here lies with the description. The provider has come up with a list of all the cameos in the video, in order of appearance:

John Candy (as Yosh Schmenge from SCTV), Andrea Martin (as Edith Prickley from SCTV), New York Mets Keith Hernandez & Mookie Wilson, Jane Curtin (of SNL and Kate & Allie), Madeline Kahn, Joe Williams, Paul Reubens (as Pee Wee Herman), Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Wynton Marsalis, Celia Cruz, Ihtzak Perlman, Gordon Jackson & Jean Marsh (as Angus Hudson and Rose Buck of Upstairs Downstairs), Paul Simon, Jeremy Irons, Pete Seeger, Rhea Perlman and Danny Devito, and NY Giants Sean Landeta, Mark Ingram, Karl Nelson and Carl Banks.

Sesame Street - Put Down the Duckie

Agony, Ecstasy, & Bears

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened in 1957 after my 8th birthday. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

[Above: Your government doesn't want you to encourage this sort of behavior.]

By now I'd been driven back and forth across the country four times, three that I could remember. This trip, east to west, was to take a mostly northerly route, since we were traveling in late July and early August.

A side effect of the constant sexual abuse made the first half of the trip hideous. By now I had a phobia of detectable bowel movements. I needed to do my business stealthily. But how do you do it stealthily in a cheap motel with flimsy walls and both parents in the only other room?

In one week I got backed up like Kennedy International Thanksgiving Eve. My Mother noticed the lack of BM activity (being very alert to such things) and was starting to talk about trying to remember where in all our bags she had packed the enema apparatus.

At the same time, she let up on the sexual abuse, no doubt for the same reason I let up on the bowel movements. She didn't want anything she did to be heard. It spoiled her fun to keep me quiet during a rape. The whole point is to force a reaction. The more extreme the reaction, the more power the rapist feels he/she has. If she couldn't make me cry or scream for fear that my Father would intervene, why bother?

It was a full ten days before we arrived at Guy & Zenobia's house in Springfield. As usual we were put up there.

You may remember that Zenobia was my Mother's best friend and Guy and Zenobia were so attached to us I called them Uncle and Aunt. Their house was big enough that I could feel I had enough privacy, if only I wasn't now so backed up that I was almost terminally constipated.

Fortunately we were there long enough for me to work it out myself without having to beg for an artificial assist. Three days after our arrival I had two weeks worth of bowel movement. I felt lighter by the equivalent of a bowling ball.

The rest of the trip veered north to take us through the South Dakota Badlands, Wyoming, Yellowstone, and Idaho. I still had the BM problem but was saved again at Yellowstone when we rented a cabin with a detached outhouse.

My first memorable trip east to west 2 years earlier had made me aware of the beauty of the Southwest and exposed me to Navajo and Hopi art. This trip I fell in love with the Western Plains and the Rockies.

At Yellowstone we were surrounded by bears all the time. Back then the rangers went to much less trouble than they do now to keep people from feeding the bears. Consequently bears swarmed all the cars lined up at the entrances. You had to drive through at a stop and go crawl as cars in front of you stopped to toss food out to attract bears. Everybody had to have a picture of a bear leaning over their car, begging for more. It was both disgusting and thrilling. Too bad it was wrong.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Rockin' Goddess

Video Finds of the Day

I have a new game. I pick a YouTube video at random. If I like it, game over, I win. If I don't like it I look at the "related video" that is exactly fifth on the list of related videos for that one. If I like it, game over, I win. If I don't like it I repeat the previous step. And so on. Eventually I must either win or eternity must pass and I lose.

I defeated eternity this time by landing on a video that had to do with Iansã, a goddess of interest to Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian faith. She is the goddess of winds, hurricanes and tempests, says the Wikipedia article."She lives at the gate of the graveyard, and has dominion over the realm of the Dead. Her name in English means mother of nine (children)."

The videos I landed on by means of totally random thrashing about show that religions revolving around possessions of worshippers by minor deities rock.


Maria Bethânia - "Ponto de Iansã" (1972)


Michael Howell, Part V

Michael Howell's Homeless Art Gallery was a great success for him. By May 1992 there were displays up for about 7 artists, counting Michael. Michael had half the display space, the rest of us shared the other half. Many more people came in to get free lessons from Michael and ask for space. Michael always said he would "think about it," or he would critique their art, being mostly positive and encouraging, and then end with, "Pretty soon you'll be doing something we can put up." He was a genius at stringing people along with flattery and promises.

He expected flattery in return. Every time I saw him he fished for compliments. When I finished a painting he would always say how interesting it was, or how he liked the use of color, or the composition, sounding quite sincere until the next words out of his mouth were, "So what do you think about the color [or composition, etc.] of this one?" showing me one of his. If my compliment for him wasn't at least as good as his for me, he'd make a sour face, acting offended.

At least he was conscious about it. He freely admitted he liked having me around because I came off as an intellectual and it made him look intellectual to be associated with me.

His desire to be regarded as intellectual clashed with his bigotry at times. An example involved some uncomfortable moments at the Burke Museum in 1993. I was with Michael and Stan Burriss at the U District Burger King. It was after the free meal and Michael had a few hours to kill before an appointment. I told them I was leaving to go to an exhibit of contemporary Maori art at the Burke Museum on campus. Michael decided he had to go to learn what all this Maori art is about. He talked Stan into coming with us.

On the walk over (just 4 blocks) Michael talked about how anything a native can do a non-native can do. It's just a matter of wanting to. I couldn't see any way to argue against that sort of reasoning, but I also couldn't see what the point of reasoning it was.

The exhibit was awesome to me. Two of the artists especially stood out, Cliff Whiting and Manos Nathan. Manos Nathan did beautiful carved clay pots which he allowed to be exhibited for a year and then destroyed to respect the sacred clay they were made from.

Predictably, Michael had no more interest in that bit of cultural trivia than in the art itself. I spent the next hour and a half constantly moving away from Michael to avoid hearing him carp about how he could do better than this or that in half the time, "if he wanted to."

In general Michael was interested in whatever he could trivialize or master. If he could master it, it was genius. If he couldn't, it was beneath him.

By the end of '93 the fact that women at Noel House with clear talent weren't getting display space and growing frustration with Michael's dismissal of crafts (what he called women's art when they weren't listening) led to meetings with Michael and Archdiocesan Housing Authority officials to try to work some arrangement out that would better accommodate the women at Noel House. Michael expressed sharp bitterness about these meetings to me. He told me he planned to stonewall them. He would keep going to their meetings but he would find objections to all their proposals and wear them down.

It didn't work. When he was uncooperative, the AHA simply sent a social worker. Her name was Barbara Brownstein. She was short, thin, darkhaired, energetic, female, and of a suspect orientation. Michael Howell's noncooperation extended to Barbara. He avoided speaking to her as much as possible.

I don't remember how long it took but the next thing I recall is that Barbara and Michael were opening the gallery on different days. I think it was in the Spring or early Summer of 1994. It was maybe a month after Tim Harris came in and told me of his plans to begin a street paper similar to a Boston paper he'd started up a few years earlier.

Barbara took no answer for a yes whenever she consulted Michael about adding members, or rearranging displays, so Michael's sulking noncooperation backfired. By the end of Summer we had a total of twelve artists working in the gallery and displaying, in addition to artists who were old friends of Michael who never had to check in order to get their work displayed.

The new artists included, as I remember, at least 3 women. One of them, Jonna Taylor, had a piece that was an assembly of items on a level board on a table, webbed with string with bits of paper with writing on them. Michael's reaction to it was at first just that it was junk. Then he noticed that one of the items forming the piece was a black dildo. I was watching him when he saw it. His face turned lobster red and he said that it was disgusting, and we had to get it out of the gallery.

[Above Right: Not a good enough picture of it to see the dildo, but at least it conveys how busy it was. Anitra wrote about Jonna when she passed away a few years ago.]

I said I thought it should stay, it's art and it makes a statement. Michael scoffed at that. Then he said, "Well, it has to go. It's offensive to women. Women don't want to see disgusting things like that. The dykes downstairs won't allow it."

He hadn't read the signature. I said, "How can you say it's offensive to women if it was done by one? It was put together by one of the Noel House women. The staff already know about it."

It was true. The staff was fine with it. It was controversial with the residents but the majority liked it. Only two of the residents ever objected. All of the claims that the piece was offensive to women in general came from Michael and from male friends of his he could line up on his side. Michael couldn't get Barbara Brownstein or the Noel House staff to support him in barring the piece.

He could have come in alone after hours and hauled the piece out and trashed it. But he knew he would be the only suspect, so he wanted someone else to take credit with him when the accusations were made. So the next time I was at the gallery he followed me out and tried to persuade me in joining him in a trashing party. I said no.

He became so angry he drew me around the corner at what is now the the Qwest Building at 2nd and Lenora and crowded me up against the wall. A foot from my face he demanded to know why I was supporting that "lesbian garbage." I said I was supporting it because it was art. He said it wasn't art it was offensive. I burst out laughing, as I do sometimes, I can't always help it, and I said, "You know, actually, I like the piece, but even if I didn't I wouldn't trash it." He then told me that I was a disgusting pervert and he would never speak to me again. He was mistaken about that last part.

In the next few days Michael complained to Noel House staff that another of the items in Jonna's piece, a ball peen hammer painted silver (representing Maxwell's) was his hammer. He was missing a hammer, Jonna's hammer looked just like his hammer, therefore she had stolen his hammer.

When those charges were disregarded, a few more days passed, and the hammer disappeared. Michael denied taking it. He convinced staff that just anyone could have walked up and snatched it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Joey Arias

Video Find of the Day

I've been looking for this one off and on for a long time. This is one of the scenes that make the 80s cult film Mondo New York worth taking the kids to, even if it means having to cover their eyes every five minutes in accord with the mores and standards of your community, or whatever you call them.

Amazing JOEY ARIAS "A Hard Day's Night" 1988

Another scene with Arias from the same movie. The ambulating blond is the only device connecting these scenes. She is the on-screen voyeur representing you.

Outrageous JOEY ARIAS "Fish Out Of Water" 1988

Michael Howell, Part IV

For a long time Michael Howell was the only one who could open the Homeless Art Gallery, and he kept limited public hours. Visitors, including the artists who used it as their only studio and whose art was housed at the gallery, were able to drop in only two days a week at first. Michael had other commitments and couldn't operate the gallery more than that.

After I began coming in regularly Michael trusted the space to me for a few additional hours. I would show up Tuesdays and give Michael the opportunity to leave for a while, before returning to lock up. So, soon, the gallery was open three days a week. That continued to be the case until sometime in 1994.

A little about the physical space. The building is at the corner of 2nd and Bell. 2nd is almost level but Bell drops as you walk from the corner to the back of the building, so there's a direct entrance to the basement from the alley. The basement held the women's shelter, Noel House, still there. There was (and is) also a women's transitional housing program on the west side (back) of the first floor and above, called Rose of Lima. Rose of Lima was addressed on Bell Street, but both the gallery and Noel House shared the 2nd Avenue address. Rose of Lima, meanwhile, shared an internal door with the gallery and had internal windows that looked out into the gallery from their office space, so you could feel like they were spying whenever the blinds were open.

All this and the fact that AHA's primary concern at the building was keeping Noel House and Rose of Lima running, naturally created frictions. Those frictions were ultimately exacerbated by the fact that, in addition to being profoundly racist, Michael Howell was also deeply sexist and homophobic.

I've mentioned the racism, directed mainly at Asians. A freakish example of it occurred one day when we were leaving the gallery together, walking south. We were engrossed in a conversation as we approached Wally's, a little Mom and Pop store in Belltown run by a wonderful Korean couple. I wanted to get something in the store and suggested to Michael that we could carry on the conversation inside.

It wouldn't have been so freakish if he had just said, "No." Even "No, I don't like the people that run the store, I'll wait out here," wouldn't have been so bad. I didn't have to know what he didn't like about them. What he did that was so off the wall racist was get furious at me that I would do business with Koreans. It wasn't enough that he hated them, I had to hate them, too. He got angry to the point of sputtering. I went in anyway. When I came out he punished me by walking off in a babyish pouting sulk. He was as angry that he couldn't control me as he was racist. Control was important.

An apparent contradiction to that sort of behavior lay in the fact that he welcomed a Korean artist into the gallery. The contradiction is resolved by the nature of the relationship. Michael was in control of the gallery. Michael was not in control of Wally's. Michael could let one extremely talented Korean artist make his gallery look good, knowing that he could exclude any others. Michael also knew that he could potentially be accused of racism and was smart enough to know that the accusations could be headed off as long as he allowed token representatives in. He explicitly told me in private that he considered all that in allowing our Korean artist membership.

He also spoke to me at length about his theory that women can't be good artists no matter how hard they try, but that it was important to satisfy the wishes of AHA and the "Noel House dykes" by appearing to not exclude women.

Rather than grant space to any women artists, Michael Howell tried to make feminist points by offering art lessons to women. He made a point of reaching out to Noel House in particular, inviting them to send women up for help in learning art.

I think it worked for a while. Michael avoided using his disparaging homophobic language around Noel House residents and staff. The free art lessons were appreciated and gave the intended impression that Michael thought the women had promise as artists. Privately he told me it was a farce, the women weren't capable of learning, they were only good for crafts, and he had no intention of allowing "women's art" be hung on the walls of his gallery.

Arguing with Michael about any of his bigoted views would get you an angry tirade at first, followed by a flat refusal to continue the discussion further, followed by pouting and departure for the day. The next time you'd see him he'd pretend nothing had been said, and get irritated if you brought it up again.

I wondered how long I could continue to associate with the man. Being put in the role of an unofficial assistant made me feel I was endorsing his management. At some point the manifestations of his bigotry on that management would be too embarrassing, I thought. It turned out though that by the time it became unbearable to be associated with him there were other allies available and I didn't have to leave the gallery. I'll be getting to that.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Hula, Straight

Video Finds of the Day

A couple of videos of hula rehearsals provided by TeFetia. Embedding disabled, you have to go to YouTube. This is hula the way I think of it. The thing with the costumes is something else.

No Luna E Kahale Kai

Heiau Kahiko Uli'Uli

Michael Howell, Part III

Late 1991 was a huge turning point in my life. I used to use email signatures that said things like, "Harnessing Stupidity, Since 1991" and "One Personality To Serve You, Since 1991." Between September and November of that year I resolved the old split personality and broke out of a lot of the problems that PTSD put me through. I quit smoking cold turkey. I felt like a new person. One of the consequences was that I decided I could deal with hanging out with Michael Howell again.

I decided that on the spur of the moment. I was walking by the Burger King on NE 50th on a Sunday and went in, impulsively. Sure enough Michael was there with poet Stan Burriss, who often dropped in to meet Michael without going on to the Blessed Sacrament feed.

After getting through with the "long time no see" business and after I dished up a diplomatic answer to "why haven't you been around?" Michel broke the news that he was about to move his traveling "Homeless Art Gallery" into a physical space downtown.

Michael Howell's Homeless Art Gallery had been a collection of art work done by homeless and formerly homeless artists who trusted Michael to store their art in his apartment so he could haul it out and display it in public places.

The idea for this traveling art show preceded the Seattle Goodwill Games of 1990. But the city's homeless sweeps in advance of the games spurred a revolt. There was a Tent City and associated protest. The protest gave rise to SHARE and WHEEL, Seattle's most active grassroots organizations powered by homeless people themselves. The rallies incident to the protests surrounding the Goodwill Games and to other actions by SHARE brought new life to Michael's art show. Homeless protesters wanted to show the public that homeless people are talented and sensitive human beings. So activists were happy to help haul the art around and set it up wherever public actions were planned.

Meanwhile, the severe winter of 1990 prompted the Archdiocesan Housing Authority to open a severe weather shelter in Belltown which evolved into a permanent women's shelter (Noel House) in a building at 2nd and Bell. Yielding to neighborhood pressures, the AHA agreed that the corner storefront of the building would not be used by the permanent shelter. Instead some other use would be found for it, one which would benefit the entire community, not only the homeless community.

Enter Michael Howell. He offered to run his Homeless Art gallery out of the storefront as a working studio and gallery. It would benefit the wider community by being a place where anyone could come and see the artwork. The studio space would be open to all walk-ins. Even non-homeless could create art in the space.

Michael figured he couldn't sell the idea as "Michael Howell's Private Gallery" open by invitation to other artists. He had to tell AHA that he wouldn't really be the owner of the new gallery. He told them it would be a democratically run cooperative.

Already in the Burger King, December 1991, without having seen me for two nearly two years, Michael Howell couldn't resist bragging to me how he was pulling the wool over the eyes of a "religionist" bureaucracy. The gallery would be open to homeless and formerly homeless artists, but he intended to retain iron control. There wasn't going to be any cooperative.

When he said it would be open to formerly homeless artists I perked up. "Hey, I'm a formerly homeless artist," I said. Even before I first met him I had been doing pen and ink drawings. I had since taken up acrylics. he asked to see some, so the next week I brought a handful of paintings to the Burger King. He admitted they weren't to his taste, but he said they would fill a niche in the gallery. He had been looking for a non-native who did "native" art, because, he said, the natives were too demanding.

I pointed out that my art wasn't really Native American inspired, except insofar that Native Hawaiians are now Native Americans thanks to Hawaiian statehood, and a fraction of my art is Native Hawaiian inspired, although mostly I've been influenced by art from other realms of Oceania, such as New Zealand and New Guinea and Indonesian -- and he said, "Yeah, whatever."

So that's how he accepted my art for display in the Homeless Art Gallery.

[Below: Me in front of my display in the gallery a few years later. Michael was already on the way out when this picture was taken but you can see two of his pieces in this scene. One is the bowed man in blue over my left shoulder. The other is a painting of a woman at my far right, below a couple of landscapes by a third artist. My stuff is around the windows. Michael wasn't able to paint directly on large canvases and boards such as these. One of the reasons he wanted the gallery space was to have a place to set up a projector. He came in nights when the gallery was closed and projected his small drawings onto large boards and traced them.]

There was still a little agoraphobia problem that made it difficult for me to ride crowded buses from the U District to Downtown Seattle. In March 1992 I saw the place for the first time thanks to Michael's gracious agreement to ride with me to keep me distracted and get me past the panic attacks.